It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but I used to be Chef Mental Rollercoaster. I left the boozy world of restaurants years ago, but I spent 10 years training, cooking, scrubbing pots, owning, going bankrupt, catering and working ridiculously long hours.
The way my culinary career ended left a dark shadow on my memory of the years in the biz, but when I carefully remember some of the highlights, I have to admit that I had some fun. I was featured in the newspaper as the youngest owner in the city, I did a few segments on a local morning news show, and a restaurant I worked in received a rave review stemming from a night I lead.
Those were a few of the hits, but the ongoing enjoyment came from designing seasonal and special event menus. Researching trends, playing with new ingredients, and developing dishes was part of the day-to-day fun. I haven’t owned a restaurant in 7 years, but I’m still evolving the menu that lives in the back of my mind.
Despite the fond memories and the ongoing mental menu moulding, I will likely never return to that world. It’s a chapter in my life story that has a very clean ending that doesn’t lend itself to a sequel.
My exit followed a fight with my boss accusing me of being on drugs. I wasn’t, but I was incredibly hungover and was not functioning well. The argument ended with him calling my husband telling him that if I tried to drive home, he’d call the police. Ugh, I’m embarrassed all over again at the memory. I quit that day and never returned. Had I been honest and just said that I was hungover, the situation probably wouldn’t have escalated the way it did. I didn’t though, I just kept telling him I wasn’t on anything. Of course he didn’t believe me and I later heard that he not-so-casually spread a rumour that I was using crack. No joke. He described our argument to a doctor friend of his who told him that the “only possible explanation” was that I was on crack. Obviously this is a doctor with impeccable intuition and ethics.
It was a very unfortunate way to end a short career that I truly loved while I lived it, despite the constant rollercoaster of highs and lows that is inherent to the restaurant biz. That said, I needed to get out of that environment to have any chance at sobriety. In the end, it’s probably how that story needed to end: quick and clean.